It goes by many names. "Summer slump" and "summer brain drain" are popular. Regardless of the name, "it" refers to the learning loss students experience over summer vacation. According to research, teachers spend between four and six weeks re-teaching material that kids forget over the summer.
But there are ways to avoid the summer slump.
1. Get Out of the House
Look for outlets that keep the kids busy and their brains functioning. Check with your town's parks and recreation departments, churches, community centers, and other family-friendly organizations for day camps and week-long summer camps.
Visions of summer camps include arts and crafts, swimming and overnight adventures. But camp activities have expanded. Sports camps, music and drama camps, art camps, and science camps — just to name a few. In one summer your child can learn a soccer player's moves, a guitarist's chords and a detective's crime solving abilities.
Visit museums and zoos, many of which also offer summer camps, too. Children's and science museums provide hands-on exhibits. Zoos encourage a love of nature and animals.
Summer's the best time for a crash course in physical education. Swimming, biking, and hiking are just three examples. A playground's swings, slides and jungle gyms provide a great workout for little ones. The bonus is the opportunity for quality family time.
When the temperature soars and the air quality sinks, head indoors to your local library. From reading clubs and story hours to fun interactive presentations and activities, community libraries offer a variety of kids programs for all ages, and most are free!
2. Get Creative With Little Ones
Brainstorm ideas for teaching elementary education topics. The key? Activities so fun the kids won't know they're "at school."
Reading experts recommend that reading 20 minutes each day keeps kids reading skills progressing. Set aside time during the day for kids to find a spot on the couch or under a tree to read. Don't limit reading material to picture and chapter books. Magazines and newspapers work great, too. Gather the other neighborhood parents to start a book club, or ask your local library for book club and reading program options.
Suggest that your child keep a journal over the summer, writing about vacation and adventures. Another option to keep the penmanship pretty is to handwrite letters to relatives or friends from school.
Use activities around the house to encourage use of math skills. Give an allowance and help kids keep track of earnings. Spend some quality baking time in the kitchen — practicing fractions in the process.
Summer is all about nature, and nature is all about science! Plant a vegetable garden, hang bird feeders and houses, and go for nature walks.
A visit to your local craft store will reveal hundreds of summertime art activities. At the very least, grab a box of sidewalk chalk and start drawing!
Attend free summer community concerts. Sit down at the computer and create a "Summer Fun" playlist. Trade in the car DVD player for music.
Computers shouldn't be banned from June through August. Lots of cool websites encourage learning while kids have fun. PBS Kids is a great example. Help your child create fun posters for their rooms using clip art and fonts of different sizes and colors.
3. Get Your Teens Involved, Too
Encourage your older child to get a part-time summer job. Doing so teaches skills he'll use throughout his life — and puts some summer spending money in his wallet.
Many teens turn to malls and fast-food restaurants for summer jobs. This is fine, but look for other employment outlets. Examples include pet sitting, babysitting, being a camp counselor, and lawn maintenance.
If a part-time job isn't appealing, talk about volunteer opportunities. Community organizations from food pantries to churches to animals shelters always need volunteers. Volunteering develops a sense of self and the world around you.
4. Get Serious About Monitoring Electronics
Before summer begins, call a family meeting and set the summer ground rules for computer, cell phone, television and video game usage. Outline consequences to expect if the rules are broken.
If necessary, take advantage of your parental right to exercise control over the household electronics. Hide the power chords (shortening a computer's lifespan) and block mindless television channels.
5. Get Everyone on Board
As with any approach, the best-laid plan involves all family members. Talk about constructive family summer plans over Sunday dinner. Brainstorm ideas and encourage even the youngest members to offer suggestions.
But most importantly, set an example. Turn off the television and open a book. Take the dog for a walk and invite your child along.
The summer slump often seems inevitable. But with proper planning and a family effort, your child can stay engaged and excel in the next school year.